Dear Andrew and Benjamin,
It's December 31, 2011. Last day of the year. Thought I'd take this opportunity to try to put into words my love and thoughts as I look back over our year, and look forward in anticipation to a new year with you two, my most precious sons.
We started 2011 as a normal, happy-go-lucky family of four. Little did we know what God had in store for us. Looking back, it was a good thing that we didn't know what was coming. There's nothing that could have prepared us for the tail-spin we began on July 30th...no way to have grasped the finality or the futility it would cause. I had exactly 16 hours on that day, July 30, to tell your daddy that we would be okay if he had to go; 16 hours to pray without ceasing, talk to him, sing to him, caress him, as he drifted off and let Jesus take him by the hand a little before midnight. I left nothing unsaid. I left nothing to chance. And in that horrible, no-good, terrible day, I watched the love of my life, the best daddy you could ever hope for, go on to his heavenly reward...way too quickly for the three of us, that's for sure. I'm guessing his Grandma Yoder and your Papaw came with Jesus to get him.
Nothing I can do or say can ever bring your daddy back. I remember telling you soon after his death that I would "give anything" I had to get him back. And you, Ben, said, "Even us?!?" That hit me square between the eyes....no, sweet Ben, I would give my life for either of you boys, and that was just an expression. He's gone physically, but not spiritually. All three of us have had numerous encounters with him, we know without a doubt that he is close by. We see him in the beauty of the sunset, the honking of Canada geese as they fly too close overhead, heading to Lake Wichita, the stillness we experience right before we drift off to sleep....he is here.
It's been five months since we lost him. Sometimes it seems like five years, other instances it seems like five minutes. The process of grief is tricky; just when you think you may have a grasp on it, and things seem to get back on a somewhat-normal keel, it sneaks up and hits you on the back of the head, and you are transported back to a place where all you can do is cry out for God to help you.
My promise to him, to keep you in as normal a routine as possible, has for the most part been successful. You're doing well in school. You are thriving. At times, you can talk about him without crying; we are beginning to laugh more and more, especially whenever we start to swap stories about him. I have a thousand of them that you haven't had the chance to hear yet. And believe me, there are some doozies. If there was one adjective I could use to describe your daddy, it would be "fun". He was the most fun person I ever had the privilege of knowing. I see that fun in both of you. It's what keeps me going sometimes, knowing that no matter what our future holds, that a big old piece of him is walking around this earth in each of you. You are our greatest accomplishment and greatest blessing.
As we look back, I see a year filled with good things. Maybe the concentration of our good things was greater prior to July 30th, but since July 30th, there have still been good times. We have seen grace and faith in action with the love of our families and friends as they pray daily for us. Folks have contacted us, telling stories of how your daddy influenced them, changed their perspective on things, or even encouraged them to begin a new career. He made a difference while on this earth! We can only hope to do the same.
We made it through the holidays. Thanksgiving was so tough, I was really dreading Christmas. But by the grace of God, we survived. And survived rather well, considering the circumstances. I've had a peace and a calm come over me, ever since Christmas Eve, and I'm taking it and running with it for as long as it lasts. For the first time since losing Daddy, I am looking forward to our future. And what great timing, huh? Right as a new year begins to dawn.
We spent the afternoon doing another "first" today...something that I think we will remember for the rest of our lives....we took our shotguns, our bb gun, and went shooting.
Andrew, the look on your face as you hit your first clay is a snapshot in my mind that I will not ever forget. Whenever you relaxed in the chair at the range, and exclaimed, "Mom, I'm going to love hunting just as much as Dad did!" I saw him in your expression.
And Ben, the bb gun is a great learning tool for you....just as Dad taught Andrew, you will learn how to handle the old Red Ryder, and, if you're still game, for your 10th birthday you, too, will receive a shotgun.
I was so proud I could burst as I watched both of you. As hard as the past 5 months have been, this afternoon was sweet beyond words. It's the circle of life (sorry for the cliche). We're all in this together, and if shooting shotguns and hunting is what we want to do, then by golly, we'll do it. We all felt Dad there as we laughed and shot clays and remembered how he loved getting outdoors. And we are continuing what he loved by doing what we love. How perfect is that?
So, as I tuck you both into bed tonight, I will say a little extra prayer. I will pray that 2012 will be a year of love, laughter and fun...full of life experiences that will make us better stewards of this earth, better children of God, and closer as a family. I know now that we can weather any storm. And I look forward to our prosperous future, the one God has in His plans for us. I claim it, I expect it, and I will not be satisfied until we achieve it. For God is good, and even though we do not understand why we're walking this path, we are not on it alone. And we will continue to thank Him in all circumstances, even now as a family of three.
Happy 2012! Thank you for loving me and believing in me. Thank you for overlooking my faults and my missteps as I lead this family into the new year. I love you both more than anything in this world. We are going to be just fine.